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Ēl is a
northwest Semitic word and name translated into English as either 'God'
or left untranslated as El, depending on the context.
The word El was found at the top of a list of Gods as the Ancient of Gods or the Father of all Gods, in the ruins of the Royal Library of the Ebla civilization, in the archaeological site of Tell Mardikh in Syria dated to 2300 BC.
He may have been a desert God at some point, as the myths say that he had two wives and built a sanctuary with them and his new children in the desert.
El had fathered many Gods, but most important were Hadad, Yaw and Mot, each of whom has similar attributes to the Greco-Roman Gods Zeus, Ophion and Thanatos respectively.
Ancient Greek mythographers identified El with Cronus (not
Forms include Ugaritic 'il, pl. 'lm; Phoenician 'l pl. 'lm, Hebrew 'ēl, pl. '⁏lîm; Aramaic 'l, Arabic Al; Akkadian ilu, pl. ilāti. The original meaning may have been 'strength, power'. In northwest Semitic usage 'l was both a generic word of any 'God' and the special name or title of a particular God who was distinguished from other Gods as being the God, or even in our modern sense God.
Ēl is listed at the head of many pantheons.
El was the father God among the canaanites. But because the word sometimes refers to a God other than the great God Ēl it is often difficult to be certain whether Ēl followed by another name means the great God Ēl with a particular epithet applied or refers to another God entirely.
example, in the Ugaritic texts 'il mlk is understood to mean 'Ēl the
King' but 'il hd means 'the God Hadad'. We know this only from context.
Personal names including the
stem 'l are found with similar patterns both in Amorite and South Arabic
which indicates that probably already in Proto-Semitic 'l was both a
generic term for 'God' and the common name or title of a single
particular 'God' or 'God'.
It occurs 217 times in the Masoretic text: 73
times in the Psalms and 55 times in the Book of Job, and otherwise
mostly in poetic passages or passages written in elevated prose. It
occasionally appears with the definite article as hā'Ēl 'the God' (for
example in 2 Samuel 22.31,33–48).
Whether this was a longstanding belief or a relatively new one has long been the subject of inconclusive scholarly debate about the prehistory of the sources of the Tanakh and about the prehistory of Israelite religion.
In the P strand Yahweh claims in Exodus 6.2–3:
The identity of Yahweh with either Ēl in his aspect Shaddāi or with a God called Shaddāi is affirmed. Also affirmed is that the name Yahweh is a more recent revelation.
One scholarly position is that the identification of Yahweh with Ēl is late, that Yahweh was earlier thought of as only one of many Gods and not normally identified with Ēl. In some places, especially in Psalm 29, Yahweh is clearly envisioned as a storm God, something not true of Ēl so far as we know.
It is Yahweh who fights Leviathan in Isaiah 27.1; Psalm 74.14; Job 3.8;40.25, a deed attributed both to Ba'al/Hadad and ‘Anat in the Ugaritic texts, but not to Ēl.
Such mythological motifs are variously seen as late survivals from a period when Yahweh held a place in theology comparable to that of Hadad at Ugarit; or as late henotheistic/monotheistic applications to Yahweh of deeds more commonly attributed to Hadad; or simply as examples of eclectic application of the same motifs and imagery to various different Gods.
Similarly it is argued inconclusively whether Ēl Shaddāi, Ēl ‘Ôlām, Ēl ‘Elyôn and so forth were originally understood as separate divinities. Albrecht Alt presented his theories on the original differences of such Gods in Der Gott der Väter in 1929. But others have argued that from patriarchal times these different names were indeed generally understood to refer to the same single great God Ēl.
the position of Frank Moore Cross (1973). What is certain is that the
form 'ēl does appear in Israelite names from every period including the
name Yiśrā'ēl 'Israel', meaning 'ēl strives' or 'God strives'.
Psalm 89:6 (verse 7 in Hebrew) has:
Traditionally bənê 'ēlîm has been interpreted as 'sons of the mighty', 'mighty ones', for, indeed 'ēl can mean 'mighty', though such use may be metaphorical (compare the English expression God-awful).
It is possible also that the expression 'ēlîm in both places descends from an archaic stock phrase in which 'lm was a singular form with the m-enclitic and therefore to be translated as 'sons of Ēl'.
The m-enclitic appears elsewhere in the Tanakh and in
other Semitic languages. Its meaning is unknown, possibly simply
emphasis. It appears in similar contexts in Ugaritic texts where the
expression bn 'il alternates with bn 'ilm, but both must mean 'sons of Ēl'. That phrase with m-enclictic also appears in Phoenician
inscriptions as late as the 5th century BCE.
The final occurrence is in Daniel 11.35:
There are a few cases in the Tanakh where some think 'ēl referring to the great God Ēl is not equated with Yahweh.
One is in Ezekiel 28.2 in the oracle against Tyre:
Here 'ēl might refer to a
generic God, not necessarily the high God Ēl and if it does so refer,
the King of Tyre is certainly not thinking specifically of Yahweh.
This could mean that God, that is Yahweh, judges along with many other Gods as one of the council of the high God Ēl.
However it can also mean that God, that is Yahweh,
stands in the divine council (generally known as the Council of Ēl), as
Ēl judging among the other members of the Council. The following verses
in which God condemns those to whom he say were he had previousl named
angels and sons of the Most High suggest God is here indeed Ēl judging
the lesser Gods.
Two other apparent fossilized expressions are arzê-'ēl 'cedars of God' (generally translated something like
cedars', 'goodly cedars') in Psalm 80.10 (in Hebrew verse 11) and
kəharrê-'ēl 'mountains of God' (generally translated something like
'great mountains', 'mighty mountains') in Psalm 36.7 (in Hebrew verse
Dante Alighieri in his De vulgari eloquentia suggests that the name was the first sound emitted by Adam: While the first utterance of humans after birth is a cry of pain, Dante assumed that Adam could only have made an exclamation of joy, which at the same time was addressing his creator.
In the Divina commedia, however, Dante contradicts this by
saying that God was called I in the language of Adam, and only named El
in later Hebrew, but already before the confusion of tongues (Paradiso,
Various family Gods are recorded, divine names listed as belong to a particular family or clan, sometimes by title and sometimes by name, including the name Il 'God'.
In Amorite personal names
the most common divine elements are Il ('God'), Hadad/Adad, and
Dagan. It is likely that Il is also very often the God called in
Akkadian texts Amurru or Il Amurru.
He may have been a desert God at some point as the
myths say that he had two wives and built a sanctuary with them and his
new children in the desert. El had fathered many Gods, but most
important were Hadad, Yaw and Mot, each share similar attributes to the
Roman-Greco Gods: Zeus, Poseidon and Hades respectively.
had a large temple dedicated to Dagon and another to Hadad, there was no
temple dedicated to Ēl.
He is ḥātikuka your patriarch. Ēl is the grey-bearded ancient one, full of wisdom, malku 'king', 'abū šamīma 'father of years', 'ēl gibbōr 'Ēl the warrior'.
is also named lṭpn of unknown meaning, variously rendered as Latpan,
Latipan, or Lutpani.
He asked the women to tell him when the bird is fully cooked, and to then address him either as husband or as father, for he would thenceforward behave to them as they call him. They salute him as husband. He lies with them and they gave birth to Shachar 'Dawn' and Shalim 'Dusk'. Again Ēl lies with his wives and the wives give birth to the gracious Gods, cleavers of the sea, children of the sea.
of these wives are not explicitly provided, but some confusing rubrics
at the beginning of the account mention the Goddess Athirat who is
otherwise Ēl's chief wife and the Goddess Rahmay 'Merciful', otherwise
As to the rivers and the spring of the two deeps, these might
refer real streams, or to the mythological sources of the salt water
ocean and the fresh water souces under the earth, or to the waters above
the heavens and the waters beneath the earth.
sons of Ēl named individually in the Ugaritic texts are Yamm 'Sea', Mot
'Death', and ‘Ashtar, who may be the chief and leader of most of the
sons of Ēl. Ba‘al/Hadad is a few times called Ēl's son rather than the
son of Dagan as he is normally called, probably because Ēl is in the
position of a clan-father to all the Gods.
The text ends with an incanation for the cure of
some disease, possibly hangover.
The title dū gitti is also found in Serābitṭ text 353. Cross (1973, p. 19) points out that Ptah is ofen called the lord (or one) of eternity and thinks it may be this identification of Ēl with Ptah that lead to the epithet 'olam 'eternal' being applied to Ēl so early and so consistently.
(However in the Ugaritic texts Ptah is
seemingly identified instead with the craftsman God Kothar-wa-Khasis.)
However the text is translated by Cross (1973, p. 17):
In some inscriptions the name 'Ēl qōne 'arṣ 'Ēl creator of Earth' appears, even including a late inscription at Leptis Magna in Tripolitania dating to 100s (KAI. 129).
In Hittite texts the expression becomes the single name Ilkunirsa, this
Ilkunirsa appearing as the husband of Asherdu (Asherah) and father of 77
or 88 sons.
Ēl is rather the son of Sky and Earth. Sky and Earth are themselves children of ‘Elyôn 'Most High'. Ēl is brother to the God Bethel, to Dagon, and to an unknown God equated with the Greek Atlas, and to the Goddesses Aphrodite/'Ashtart, Rhea (presumably Asherah, and Dione (equated with Ba'alat Gebal. Ēl is father of Persephone who dies (presumably an otherwise unknown Semitic Goddess of the dead) and of Athene (presumably the Goddess ‘Anat).
Sky and Earth have separated from one another in hostility, but Sky insists on continuing to force himself on Earth and attempts to destroy the children born of such unions until at last Ēl, son of Sky and Earth, with the advice of the God Thoth and Ēl's daughter Athene attacks his father Sky with a sickle and spear of iron and drives him off for ever.
So he and his allies the Eloim gain Sky's kingdom. In a later passage it is explained that Ēl castrated Sky.
But one of Sky's concubines who was given to Ēl's brother Dagon was
already pregnant by Sky and the son who is born of this union, called by
Sanchuniathon Demarûs or Zeus, but once called by him Adodus, is
obviously Hadad, the Ba‘al of the Ugaritic texts who now becomes an ally
of his grandfather Sky and begins to make war on Ēl.
But we are told that Ēl slew his own son Sadidus (a name that
some commentators think might be a corrupton of Shaddai, one of the
epithets of the Biblical Ēl) and that Ēl also beheaded one of his
daughters. Later, perhaps referring to this same death of Sadidus we are
The account also relates that Thoth:
This is the form under which Ēl/Cronus appears on coins from Byblos from the reign of Antiochus IV (175–164 BCE) four spread wings and two folded wings, leaning on a staff.
Such images continued to appear on coins until after the time of
Going back to the 9th century BCE the bilingual inscription at Karatepe in the Taurus Mountains equates Ēl-Creator-of-the-Earth to Luwian hieroglyphs read as da-a-ś, this being the Luwian form of the name of the Babylonian water God Ea, lord of the abyss of water under the earth.
(This inscription lists Ēl in second place in the local pantheon,
following Ba‘al Shamim and preceding the Eternal Sun.)
the four chapels at its headquarters on the hill northwest of the Sacred
Lake were dedicated to Poseidon, the Tyche of the city equated with
Astarte (that is ‘Ashtart), and to Eshmun.
Identification of an aspect of Ēl with Poseidon rather than with Cronus might have been felt to better fit with Hellenistic religious practice, if indeed this Phoenician Poseidon really is Ēl who dwells at the source of the two deeps in Ugaritic texts.
information is needed to be certain.
The title dū gitti is also found in Serābitṭ text
353. Cross (1973, p. 19) points out that Ptah is often called the lord
(or one) of eternity and thinks it may be this identification of Ēl with
Ptah that lead to the epithet 'olam 'eternal' being applied to Ēl so
early and so consistently. (However in the Ugaritic texts Ptah is
seemingly identified instead with the craftsman God Kothar-wa-Khasis.)
However the text is translated by Cross (1973, p. 17):
In some inscriptions the name 'Ēl qōne 'arṣ 'Ēl creator of Earth' appears, even including a late inscription at Leptis Magna in Tripolitania dating to 2nd century (KAI. 129).
In Hittite texts the expression becomes the single name Ilkunirsa,
this Ilkunirsa appearing as the husband of Asherdu (Asherah) and father
of 77 or 88 sons.
Muslem scholars contend also that the second letter could be pronounced double L, and that all semetic civilizations never wrote vocals and then the A after L is also not pronounced, Also the H in Allah is not written at the end of words in Arabic and Hebrew.
They contend thus that the word EL found in Antiquity as far as Ebla civilization ( destroyed in 2300 BC) is actually non other than Allah when pronounced according to the tradition of Semetic languages as explained.
They bring a proof that the mail sent by Muhammad to Caesar and other kings had the word Allah written as AL only.
Such letters are available to view on the internet.